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Value of advice: “I’m getting divorced. Will I have enough for retirement?”

A middle aged woman working on a laptop at a table near the window in her home

The value of financial advice: An MD-guided process​. This series from MD Financial Management (MD) illustrates financial situations faced by Canadian physician households, along with our planning process to solve problems and help you achieve your personal goals. While these composite case studies do not portray any single individual, they do reflect real-life conversations MD Advisors* have with physicians and their families every day.

Cheryl, a general practitioner, had just celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary with Ali, a dermatologist, when the country locked down due to COVID-19. Ali’s practice was shuttered temporarily, he became withdrawn, and their relationship deteriorated. Soon they were in crisis mode. After months of financial uncertainty and isolation, the couple separated last spring and are negotiating a divorce.

Today, Cheryl lives in the family home with their two teenagers, ages 16 and 18. She works as a medical evaluator in drug safety, a salaried job she’s had for seven years, after taking time off to be at home with the children.

The challenge: “Divorce derailed my retirement plans. How can I get back on track?”

“Ali was a lot more interested in our finances than me, and, to be honest, I was happy to let him handle things for years. He was the main point person to meet with our MD Advisor,” says Cheryl. “COVID-19 took a huge financial toll, and I was already anxious about how that might affect our retirement. Then, suddenly, I’m on my own, with the kids.”

The negotiation of a divorce settlement and division of marital property is ongoing. “I’m not sure how much spousal support I will need for the kids’ education or to maintain our lifestyle.” 

Above all, Cheryl worries about not having enough money to retire. “At 53 years of age, how much do I need to save? Do I need to take on full-time hours? How many more years will I need to work?”

The numbers: Cheryl’s financial picture

Cheryl earns $180,000 annually plus benefits. As part of the divorce settlement, she will also receive spousal support and child support from Ali. 

Here are the couple’s assets (total: $3.93 million) as it stands now:

 A table showing assets in Cheryl’s name, assets in Ali’s name and their joint assets[Show me the text version]

The analysis: an MD Advisor’s fresh eyes

In the midst of the marital crisis, Cheryl reached out to the MD Advisor who had worked with Ali for more than 15 years, and found out he was about to retire. She was introduced to Renée, who could see how overwhelmed Cheryl was feeling.

“It’s always hard for clients to switch advisors. We get that,” says Renée. “They had a longstanding relationship and rapport with their previous advisor, and no matter what you do, it takes time to earn trust and confidence.”

While the first few meetings focused on account transactions, the real work started with getting to know Cheryl better.

“As she began opening up, I saw that she wasn’t getting the support she needed,” says Renée. “She really didn’t know if she needed to work full time to make ends meet. She was struggling emotionally, trying to hold it all together for her kids at home and her colleagues at work. Added anxiety about finances was jeopardizing her mental health.”

The plan: focusing on her own goals for retirement

Redefine expectations. Cheryl told Renée that her greatest fear was not having enough money to retire, and Renée wanted to understand what fuelled this concern. It turns out that Cheryl and her husband had always planned to retire in a seaside town where his family owns land. With that dream dashed, she no longer had a vision of her life in retirement. Renée reassured her that MD’s financial planning process would aim to fill in the blanks and offer Cheryl a method for mapping out her fresh start, including a new vision for her retirement.

Write down life priorities. In order to create a financial plan for Cheryl, Renée and her team at MD needed to understand what Cheryl cares about in life, and empower her to make a fresh start after her divorce. They wanted to know what’s most important to her, and her priorities for the future. Their discussions covered family and relationships, health and wellness, career and work, lifestyle and leisure, as well as her interest in community and charitable giving. After the MD team put this all in writing and presented it back to her, Cheryl had a clear focus on where she wants to go. She is now thinking about retiring in a small town she loves outside the city, where real estate prices and annual property taxes are both significantly lower.

Align finances to meet goals. Once priorities were established, Cheryl’s MD Advisor could finally delve into specifics about money: how much would be enough for her retirement and for other goals? And how best to make sure the funds are there? After modelling Cheryl’s retirement income in different scenarios and looking at the division of marital assets, Renée worked in consultation with Cheryl’s accountant, especially around important decisions she needed to make about the divorce settlement. Once assets are transferred to Cheryl, Renée and her team will look at changing some of the holdings so that they’re in line with Cheryl’s personal investing objectives.

Confidence in your financial future

MD’s planning process gave Cheryl more confidence to power through the stressful process that is a divorce. She now feels good about moving on in life, independently.

“When I presented the financial plan, Cheryl was surprised to see that her financial situation was nowhere near as dire as she had imagined,” says Renée. “There were a few shortfalls, but we were able to assess how much she needed in child support and spousal support to reach her retirement goals.”

In times of transition, your MD Advisor can help you get back on your feet financially, set new goals, and keep moving forward with a fresh plan for new circumstances. At MD, our process recognizes that life is always a work in progress, so let’s meet regularly to review goals, track developments and adjust for changes, whatever comes your way.

*MD Advisor refers to an MD Management Limited Financial Consultant or Investment Advisor (in Quebec), or an MD Private Investment Counsel Portfolio Manager.

The above information should not be construed as offering specific financial, investment, foreign or domestic taxation, legal, accounting or similar professional advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of independent tax, accounting or legal professionals.



Assets in Cheryl’s name

Assets in Ali’s name

Joint assets





Spousal RRSP












Corporate non-registered




Principal residence




Vacation property








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